Providing keyboard access to a Flash object and avoiding a keyboard trap

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.1 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.1.



Adobe has plans to stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020, and encourages authors interested in creating accessible web content to use HTML.

This technique relates to:


The objective of this technique is to allow keyboard focus to move to and from Flash content embedded in a web page. In browsers other than Internet Explorer, there is a problem related to keyboard accessibility of embedded Flash content. The problem is that, while both the Flash content and the HTML content around it may be keyboard accessible, many browsers do not support moving keyboard focus between the Flash content and HTML content without using a mouse. Once focus is placed inside the Flash content, a keyboard user will be trapped there. Similarly, when focus is placed somewhere else on the HTML content (outside the Flash content), it will be impossible to move focus into the content. This technique is designed to let the Flash author address this issue and provide support for moving focus between the Flash content and the HTML content via the keyboard.

This issue has been around for a long time, and is related to the way browsers implement embedded plug-ins. Until this problem is fixed, it is up to the Flash developer to come up with a work around. This technique is one of those workarounds. The approach behind this technique is the following:

When the SWFFocus class is imported into a Flash project, the following will happen:

As indicated above, there are two ways in which this technique can be used:

  1. Letting the SWFFocus class generate neighboring focusable elements in the HTML tab order for each Flash content (demonstrated in example 1 below)

    By default, the SWFFocus class will create a hidden link element before and after an embedded Flash content. These elements are needed as 'anchor' to move focus to when (shift) tabbing out of the Flash content. This approach is the easiest to implement, as it does not require any additional work by the developer. The downside is that the hidden links will clutter the HTML tab order with meaningless elements (although these elements are only used as tab stops when tabbing _out of_ the Flash content, not when tabbing _into_ it). Because of this, it is recommended to use the following approach instead:

  2. Explicitly identifying focusable HTML elements that come before and after the a Flash content in the HTML tab order (demonstrated in example 2 below)

    With this approach, the developer can use ID values to identify the elements that come before and after the Flash content in the HTML tab order. This is done by setting special class names on the Flash content's <object> element. This is the preferred approach, as it does not cause an unnecessary cluttering of the tab order. However, it does require more work and awareness by the developer (who has to manually set ID values). Also, in some scenarios there simply may not be a next or previous focusable element for a Flash content.


The two examples below are shown in the working example of Preventing a keyboard trap in Flash content. The example html file has two Flash contents embedded in it. The first Flash content is embedded with the approach described in example 1. The second example is embedded with the approach described in example 2. The source of Preventing a keyboard trap in Flash content is available. The source zip file contains the SWFFocus class.


To run the example from a local drive (as opposed to running it from a web server), the local directory needs to be added to Flash Player's security settings.

Example 2: Explicitly identifying existing focusable html element

For a large part, this technique is the same as example 1 :

  • The dynamic loading approach by SWFObject is used to load the Flash content
  • The SWFFocus class needs to be added to the content's sourcepath and initialized in the Flash content

For more details about these steps, see example 1.

In this case however, special class names are added to the Flash content object. These class names indicate the ID values of the elements previous and next of the content in the HTML tab order. The class names are:

  • 'swfPref-<previous ID>', where '<previous element>' should be the ID value of the previous element in the tab order.
  • 'swfNext-<next ID>', where '<next element>' should be the ID value of the next element in the tab order.

For example, the HTML code could look like this (notice the added class names on the object tag):

<a href="" id="focus1">test 1</a>
<object class="swfPrev-focus1 swfNext-focus2"
  data="keyboard_trap_fix_as3.swf" tabindex="0"
<a href="" id="focus2">test 2</a>

Since this example uses SWFObject's dynamic loading, the class names will have to be specified as attribute when SWFObject is initialized. This is demonstrated in the code example below.

HTML and Javascript Code Sample for Example 2

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" 
<html lang="en" xml:lang="en" xmlns="">
    <title>Keyboard Trap Fix Example </title>
    <meta content="text/html; charset=utf-8" http-equiv="Content-Type"/>
    <script src="swfobject_2_1.js" type="text/javascript"/>

    <script type="text/javascript">
      var flashvars = {};
      var params = {};
      params.scale = "noscale";
      var attributes = {}; = "FlashSample2SWF"; = "FlashSample2SWF";
      attributes["class"] = "swfPrev-focus1 swfNext-focus2";
      swfobject.embedSWF("keyboard_trap_fix_as3.swf", "flashSample1", "150", 
        "200", "9.0.0", "expressInstall.swf", flashvars, params, attributes);
    <a href="" id="focus1">lorem</a>
    <p>The following Flash content uses existing links in the document
      to move focus to when (shift) tabbing out of the Flash content.
      The existing links are defined by placing special classnames on
      the Flash object.</p>
    <div id="flashSample2">
      <a href="">
        <img alt="Get Adobe Flash player"
    <a href="">lorem</a>

Note: this example assumes that the focusable HTML elements exist and have an ID value at the time SWFObject is called to insert the Flash content. However, in some situations it is also possible that these elements do not yet exist when the Flash content is created, or that the elements will be deleted dynamically at a later point. If this happens, it is possible to reassign ID values for previous and next focusable elements. To do this, call the SWFsetFocusIds() method on the Flash content object, like so:

var o = document.getElementById("FlashSample1SWF");
o.SWFsetFocusIds('prevId', 'nextId');

From that point on the updated IDs will be used to move focus to when tabbing out of the Flash content.


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For a Flash content on a web page:

  1. If possible, confirm that the source of the Flash content imports and initializes the SWFFocus class
  2. Press the tab key to move through tabbable items on the page
  3. Confirm that it is possible to tab into the Flash content
  4. Continue tabbing and confirm that it is possible to tab out of the flash content

Expected Results

  • Checks 3 and 4 are true